RAISING JEFFREY DAHMER
Reviewed by: JimmyO
What's it about
When a father finds that his son is a serial killer, one who has committed brutal crimes against several young boys, he is left to wonder how it could happen. He and his wife try to deal with guilt, a relentless group of reporters outside their home, and rumors of abuse to his son.
Is it good movie?
Raising Jeffrey Dahmer is a misleading title to this film. It only dealt with “raising” a serial killer son with brief flashbacks of the bizarre things the child had done. What this is really about is dealing with what happens after your child is arrested for vicious and despicable acts. If you haven’t heard the name Jeffrey Dahmer because maybe you are too young then you should read up. His crimes were horrible acts of cannibalism, mutilated corpses and the violent murders of young boys. The film takes place when Jeff, as he dad calls him, has been arrested. Dad returns home to find his own mother scared and confused and his wife (Jeffrey’s step-mother) dealing with a vindictive press who wants to see someone punished. It’s hard enough to imagine what the parents must have gone through… which would be worse, to find out your child was the hunted or the hunter. That is a question I’m sure everyone never wants to have to find an answer to.
With all this, it seems like this could have been a very powerful film. After all, director Rich Ambler handled the sensationalist aspect in a very thoughtful way without exploiting the victims or the families of those involved. Yet, it just didn’t quite work for me. I seldom felt anything for Lionel and his wife Shari, played by Scott Cordes and Cathy Barnett. They had moments, but I thought Rich handled his directing duties almost too delicately. The “dramatization” aspects of the dialogue heavy scenes felt forced. Something just didn’t feel right whenever Shari and Lionel had these moments of fear and anguish over the tragedy. And when it came to Dahmer’s past, Rich got a little bit too “film school” with washing out of colors and graininess that it didn’t strengthen the film. It wasn’t bad, but it was just uninvolving. I also found the jazz score played throughout the film didn’t work… at all. It was distracting and was much too out of place. All of this made for a mediocre film experience which remained of interest for the story and a surprisingly strong performance from Rusty Sneary as Jeffrey. His work here is commendable and it helped the final moments of the film bring genuine emotion. The last ten minutes or so give some strength to an otherwise uninvolving film.
Video / Audio
Raising Jeffrey Dahmer is a brave concept and one that has a few moments that make for a compelling few minutes. But until the end, we are treated to an unfocused feature with hints of flashback that are much too clever for their own good. The actors do their best with only Rusty Sneary as Jeffrey giving a realistic and very human performance of a vicious serial killer. It worked. I respect the kind of film Rich Ambler was trying to make but it just didn’t make me feel sympathy for Lionel. In fact, it kind of made me think less of him by showing all this moments of, “My God… our little boy is fascinated with road kill.” It would be impossible to truly judge the real Lionel Dahmer. I would never want to go what he went through, but Raising Jeffrey Dahmer seemed to present his case in a flawed and less than powerful way.